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«Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation? Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation? Even though baptism is one of the fundamental building blocks of ...»

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It was during the time of Noah that the Divine longsuffering waited until the ark was built. It took Noah over 100 years to build the ark, but God patiently waited while he carried out his task. When the ark was completed and the animals were on board, Noah and his family went into the ark, and God shut them in (Gen. 7:16). It rained for forty days and flooded all the earth (Gen. 7:17). Only those eight souls were saved by the water. Some might say the ark saved them and not the water. It is true that the ark was the vessel that kept them from dying in the flood, but it was the water that saved them and transported them away from the sinful world.

While this event deals with their physical salvation, Peter makes a comparison of how baptism saves us spiritually.

Noah’s salvation is the type, and our salvation through water baptism in the antitype. Type is a figure or representative of something to come, and antitype is the reality of the type. For instance, if I step in the mud, the impression I leave is the type, but my foot is the antitype because it is the reality of the type. The Old Testament is full of types, and the New Testament is full of antitypes.

For example, Hebrews 10:1 teaches that the Law of Moses was a shadow or representation of what we have under the new covenant. Paul calls Adam a type of Christ (Rom. 5:14), and he compared the difference between Adam and Jesus in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:45-49). In Hebrews 9:24, the writer teaches that the holy place made with hands is the type, but the antitype is heaven itself. More examples could be given, but these should be enough to show that Noah’s salvation was the type, but salvation through baptism is the reality or antitype.

Some compare baptism to a wedding ring. They say the wedding ring is symbolic of the couple already being married, and baptism is symbolic of a person already being saved. Based on the evidence we have looked at so far, we can know that baptism saves us and is not symbolic of a person already being saved because it is the reality of salvation. In the chart on the next page, notice how Noah’s salvation compares with our salvation.

–  –  –

Obviously, the baptism Peter is talking about is water baptism, and he clearly states that water baptism is what saves us.

Those who teach that Holy Spirit baptism is necessary for salvation are forced to say that Peter is talking about Holy Spirit baptism. Of course, this cannot be true because Peter draws the comparison between the water that saved those eight souls and how baptism in water saves us. As I have stated in other chapters, it is not the water itself that saves, but it is the place God has designated that we will be saved by our faith in the working of God (Col. 2:12).

When Peter said that baptism was “not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,” it is clear that he was referring to water baptism. He is explaining, especially to the Jews, that the baptism that saves is not the removal of filth from the body. This fact proves the baptism he was talking about could be perceived as removing filth from the body, which only makes sense if it was being done in water. The reason this was important for the Jews to hear was because they were used to washing themselves before they entered the temple to make themselves physically clean. However, the baptism in water Peter was talking about was for an inward cleaning of the soul. The only way this was made possible was by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Otherwise, there would no be hope for us, and we would all be lost in our sins (1 Cor. 15:12-19).

When Peter said that baptism is the answer or appeal of a good conscience toward God, some argue that baptism is a response to a good conscience; so we are saved before baptism. If that were true, then anyone who has a good conscience would be saved, yet we know that is not true. Even Saul had a good conscience when he was persecuting Christians, but he was still lost until he had his sins washed away (Acts 22:16; 23:1). Many people can claim they have a good conscience about their lives no matter how sinful they may be, but it does not make them saved. Our conscience can become seared with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4:2) if we do not allow God to direct our footsteps (Jer. 10:23; Pro. 3:5-6). The only way we can have a good conscience that is pleasing to God is by having our sins removed and by living a faithful life to God (2 Cor. 1:12; 1 Tim. 1:5). According to Peter, baptism is an answer or an appeal for a good conscience because it is the time when we receive the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).

The Greek word for answer or appeal is eperotema, and it is only used one time in the New Testament. It has several meanings: inquiry, request, appeal, answer, prayer, craving, integration, pledge, or question.

Thayer notes: “…1 Pet. 3:21: "which (baptism) now saves us (you) not because in receiving it we (ye) have put away the filth of the flesh, but because we (ye) have earnestly sought a conscience reconciled to God….” BDAG notes: “…an appeal to God for a clear conscience 1 Pt 3:21….” Kittel notes: “Baptism does not confer physical cleansing but saves as a request for forgiveness.…” (262).

All three of these quotes show that a good conscience comes after your baptism. Even if a good conscience preceded baptism, I have already shown that it would not make that person saved. Based on the evidence I have given, it should be clear that salvation does not happen until we are baptized, and we cannot have a good conscience, by God’s standards, without it.

Since baptism is an appeal to a good conscience, it also proves that the person being baptized must know what he is doing, which teaches against infant baptism. A baby cannot desire a good conscience concerning his baptism because he has no idea why he is being “baptized.” One thing we need to keep in mind is that being baptized into Jesus for the remission of sins is only the beginning of our salvation, and it is the easiest part. The challenge is remaining faithful until we die. If we do, our eternal salvation will be realized (Rev. 2:10).

There is a false doctrine known as “once saved, always saved.” This doctrine would allow me to get saved today and then return to my worldly ways tomorrow, laughing all the way, knowing that I will be saved no matter what I do. This teaching does not make any sense, and it goes against the entire thrust of the Bible. When we examine the Old Testament, the Jews were God’s people, but they had a problem with sin.

Every time they turned their back on God, they were punished, which shows that God does not tolerate those who live in sin. Sin separates us from God, and it will cause us to be spiritually dead (Rom. 6:23). If “once saved, always saved” is true, then we can live in sin as much as we want and still go to heaven.

To disprove this doctrine, all we have to do is notice a few

verses from God’s Word:

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries (Heb. 26-27).

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame (Heb. 6:4).

Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son (2 John 1:9).

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning (2 Pet. 2:20).

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away (Heb. 2:1).

You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4).

These verses are just a few out of hundreds of verses that teach that we can fall from our salvation if we do not remain faithful to God by keeping His Word. This truth is the reason Paul describes the life of a Christian as running a race and striving to win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). Jesus only promises us the crown of life if we remain faithful until the end of our life (Rev. 2:10). As Paul told Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…” (1 Tim. 6:12). Dear reader, I hope you will choose to travel the difficult road that leads to the narrow gate (Mt. 7:14) by walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:7).

One last objection I want to deal with comes from a question that is designed to play on the emotions of others. What if someone believes, repents, and confesses Jesus as Lord, and then on his way to get baptized, he is killed? Wouldn’t he be saved without baptism? Before I answer this question, another question needs to be asked. What if an atheist decided he wanted to have a Bible study with a Christian, and as he began to study, he had a heart attack? What if he was going to believe, don’t you think he would be saved without belief?

Most would answer no because they understand that belief is necessary for salvation, but the same is true with baptism because it is necessary as well. So, we must answer questions like these the same way.

Now let’s consider the possibility that God will make an exception for the person that was going to be baptized since he was in the process of obeying what God had commanded him to do. The first question that we need to ask ourselves is how would that exception affect us? Even if we could prove that God will make exceptions under certain circumstances, those exceptions would only apply to a few, and it would not change what God wants us to do under normal circumstances. Even if we allowed for exceptions, which are not taught in the New Testament, if nothing is preventing us from being baptized into Christ for the remission of sins, and we choose not do it, we will be lost.

In conclusion, we have learned that Noah’s salvation by water is the type, and our salvation in water baptism in the antitype.

Our baptism is not the removal of dirt, but it does wash away our sins (Acts 22:16) by our faith in the working of God (Col.

2:12). Once we are saved, we must continue to be faithful, or we can lose our salvation (Gal. 5:4). No matter how many exceptions people may dream up that might prevent someone from being baptized, these exceptions do not prevent the majority from being baptized.


1. What is Purgatory?

2. What did Peter mean when he said, “He went and preached to the spirits in prison?”

3. Compare Noah’s Salvation to ours.

4. When Peter taught that baptism is an answer of a good conscience toward God, what does that teach us?

5. Can we ever become lost once we are saved?


The three most common arguments people use to teach that baptism is not essential for salvation are the thief on the cross, saved by grace alone, and Paul was not sent to baptize. We will examine each of these arguments, and we will learn that none of them teaches that baptism is not essential for salvation.

Our first argument comes from the cross:

Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? "And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."

And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise (Lk. 23:39-43).

They argue that the thief was saved without baptism; therefore baptism does not save. This argument is the most common one people use, but as we are about to learn, it is one of the weakest arguments a person could use because it does not apply to us today.

Everything we know about these two thieves is recorded in the four Gospels (Mt. 27:38, 44; Mk. 15:27-28, 32; Lk. 23:32Jn. 19:18, 32), and Isaiah prophesied about this event (Isa. 53). One thief was on His right, and the other was on His left. Even though they were being crucified, they both mocked Him. However, about halfway through their painful crucifixion, one of the thieves changed his attitude, and he rebuked the other thief for blaspheming Jesus.

There are two possibilities for this man’s change of heart. Either he learned about Jesus and what He stood for while hanging on the cross with Him for several hours, or he learned about Jesus before the crucifixion. While it is possible the thief could have learned about Jesus while hanging on the cross, it is unlikely because nothing in the Bible suggests that he was taught anything. It certainly was not the setting for

teaching or learning. Notice what the thief understood:

–  –  –

Since he had this much knowledge about Jesus, it seems more logical that he had learned about Jesus before the cross.

Those who use the “thief on the cross” argument assume this thief had not been baptized. However, based on the knowledge of this thief, it is possible that he was taught about Jesus and the kingdom to come by either John the Baptist or others. It is also possible that he was baptized with John’s baptism because Matthew wrote: “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mat 3:5-6). So, it is possible this thief was one of those that had come to John or maybe he was baptized by one of Jesus’ disciples (Jn. 4:1-2). However, based on the information we have, we cannot dogmatically say if this thief was or was not baptized. Just as I cannot say for sure that he was baptized, neither can those who use the “thief on the cross” argument prove that he was not baptized.

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